(A gallery of pictures and drawings: meditation exercises through
By Prof. Rav Yehoshua Rahamim Dufour (Dipur in Hebrew)
All photos and drawings by the author - Copyright Dufour
Place this study in a proper place for it contains holy Hebrew letters
this study on meditation, with gratitude, to the masters who
taught me this meditative approach of the Torah through their
humility (anava) and integrity. May they also serve as a beneficent
conduit for all those who study and integrate these texts, and
their loved ones."
Plan of page 1 with
1. Basic definition
2. Jewish meditation can be resumed in the
trajectory described below, when it is put into practice
3. Jewish meditation " traditions
4. Points of similarity and difference
between Jewish tradition and other traditions
5. Learning approach: from study to application
(from doing to being)
6. - Meditation dynamic 1: practice in the
motion of the heart through imagination: the word "shiviti"
7. - Meditation dynamic 2: practice in the
motion of the heart through the teachings of King David and
the prophets which enable us to attain the essential encounter
with God through Jewish meditation (see photos and commentary)
8. - Meditation dynamic 3: practice in
the motion of the heart through emotions: alternation in the
Psalms of King David
9. - Meditation
dynamic 4: practice in the motion the heart through the teachings
of the book Perek Shira (link which expresses, illustrates and
teaches us through photos and commentary)
10. - Meditation
dynamic 5: practice in the motion of the heart through respiration
11. - Meditation
dynamic 6: practice in the poetic motion of the heart through
words, leading to Jewish meditation (demonstration through poems
and thoughts). We have illustrated this in this study but you
should also refer to other poems on the subject (link)
12. It is all about the "atha- now" "
presentation and commentary on the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali,
a work which contributes greatly to helping us understand essential
elements of Jewish meditation
13. If we can attain knowledge through meditation, what is
this form of knowledge? Meditation leads to "knowledge which
is un-knowledge," which is non-intellectual and represents a
special form of encounter. See translation of the introduction
to Ferdowsi's Shahnama.
14. Practical exercises on
our relationship with the world (nature, objects, people, actions)
by developing our sensitivity to the beauty of Creation, every
part of which is imbued with the divine presence. (several pages
of photos on the subject).
15. About Jewish meditation:
return to this study, and clarify your dynamics
1. Jewish meditation: basic
- Jewish meditation is summarized in Psalm 16, verse 8: "shiviti Hashem
lenegdi tamid, I have set Hashem always before me" (see link for
It is the inner motion that connects us, from a
state of confusion in all areas (thoughts, feelings and actions),
directly to the target which is inscribed in everything:
He who is the essential Being, the Creator who is good and is life
(example of the verse shiviti Hashem le negdi tamid)
This verse is inscribed on the wall
facing congregants in most Sephardi synagogues: (here is an example
of an inscription in a Jerusalem synagogue).
Many people also place this inscription in their homes.
- Jewish meditation requires training,
and time should be devoted to it every day, even before prayers, as
is written in Tractate Berakhot 30b of the Talmud: "hassidim harishonim
hayu shoyim shaa ahat utmitpallelim!;, the Sages who attained the
highest level of connection with Hashem regularly devoted an hour
(in the morning to meditative prayer) and then prayed!;" The same
idea is found in Tractate Berakhot 32b of the Mishna and, of course,
in the tradition of oral transmission which applied the idea in practice.
- The Psalms express and teach us this
practice for all mental states and situations in life.
- Meditation ensures that we attain
what is demanded by the greatest, acknowledged work on Jewish religious
practice, the Shulhan Arukh which says: "It is forbidden to pray without
kavana" (intent or purpose). It is not enough just to pray. The deep
levels of our being must be connected to Hashem, in every word we
utter. And at the very beginning of his book Orah Hayim (1,4), Rabbenu
Yosef Caro writes: "tov meat tahanunim bekavana mi harbot beli kavana,
it is better to pray a little with kavana than to pray a lot without
kavana." Refer to all the commentaries on these passages.
The concept is based on the Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot
2, 13): "keshe ata mitpallel, al taas tefilatekha keva, when you pray,
do not make your prayer routine."
Read here about the meaning of "cavana"
- "Jewish meditation"
is thus an inner motion within a trajectory which connects the subject
to the very source of life. It is a mistake to assume that
this is a technique limited to an exercise in immobility and intellectual
concentration, yoga-style. We shall see that the foundational works
on yoga also denounce this form of exercise. In Judaism, when fully
understood and applied, this "motion within a trajectory" can and
must be present when we pray with kavana, as well as in our actions
(these are the mitzvot which impart the element of the divine to our
What follows then is a state of "connection-contact-adhesion"
which is called "devekut" in Judaism. This state occurs, for example,
from the very moment we lay tefillin and recite, as we wrap the tefillin
round our arm, the words of Devarim 4, 4: "atem hadevakim va Hashem
Elokekhem hayim kulhem hayom, you who adhere to Hashem Elokekhem,
you all live today."
Life then becomes a consciousness of
the total relationship that exists within the "immediacy" of a moment,
in its specific, limited form. In order to enhance our comprehension
of this, we shall give you the Jewish sources and, as the Sages of
the Talmud teach us, we shall also use other ancient sources whenever
they emphasize one of the essential elements of Creation: for instance,
the ancient foundational works of yoga precisely defined the meaning
of the immediacy of "now" (ata), which is also emphasized in the Torah
by the same term "ata".
We shall also stress, through our translation
of the foundational book of ancient Persian culture (introduction
to the Shahnama or Ferdowsi's Book of Kings), the ability of avoiding
the trap of intellectually perceiving the divine, and discovering
a true relationship instead. Jewish chants, such as Adon Olam, tell
that that God has no beginning and no end and we shall see how this
concept is expanded at a deeper level in the contribution of another
culture, created by God.
Our foundational works on meditation,
such as the Psalms and the book, Shaare Kedusha, which we shall use
extensively in this study, express this concept well. We shall examine
these works closely in this study in order to deepen our understanding
and this examination will sometimes require the input of other nations
of the world, who sought to decipher Creation and did so with integrity
and success. The Talmud has shown us how the repartition of knowledge
and roles among the nations of the world represents the grand symphony
forged by the will of divine Creation. We shall refer to works that
express the multi-millennial contribution of these ancient, wise civilizations
which did not fall into idolatry, and whose peoples also came to pay
homage and express enlightened gratitude at the Temple of Jerusalem.
The Temple remains destroyed but we can be a living Temple.
- Once the concept of Jewish meditation
is understood in its totality, it will imbue every moment in our lives
through the very act of respiration which is connected to the essence
of the soul. This is expressed in our culture by King David in the
last verse of the last Psalm, Psalm 150, in the use of the word neshama
(soul) to express neshima (breath). I
develop this meaning of Jewish respiration (link).
- We see that Judaism has a holistic
concept of a person, a being and inter-relationships. In particular,
it also has a defined concept of what constitutes a body (link),
a heart (link) and even art (link).
All these concepts together represent what can be called Jewish anthropology,
or Jewish ethno-psychology, or Jewish psychology, or Jewish personal
- It is, therefore, important for those
involved in counseling, coaching, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, education,
etc. with Jews to know about this Jewish anthropology which includes
psychic functioning, a person's relationship with others and with
the world and, in particular, the different meanings accorded by people
to relationships, love and human development. Therapists and counselors
who ignore these intra-psychic dynamics are guilty of professional
Jewish meditation can be resumed in the trajectory described below,
when put into practice:
1. a holistic approach encompassing
the "whole person."
2. an approach defined as "jewish hearing" (Shema Yisrael). Link.
3. this entails "receiving all of reality" since the Creation and
Creator, without reducing reality to this or that partial, so-called
objective or scientific, dimension.
4. an approach which entails withdrawing from a seemingly multiple
reality in ord to connect to the one "source" creator of life, with
which we are constantly in contact.
5. this relationship is not a personal performance, such as that of
a sportsman who measures the progress of his individual achievements,
but a mode in which one receives the "only perfection" which is that
of the Creator and which he wished to give us from the very first
words of the Torah. This is clearly set out in the introduction to
Shaare Kedusha (Gates of Holiness) by Ribbi Haim Vital and this is
why our holy books speak of anava (humility) as the supreme, unique
6. understanding this direct connection as "a presence and a relationship
with a presence." This is why it cannot be taught to two people simultaneously
(Tractate Hagiga 2.1 and 11b of the Talmud).
7. this approach is not simply achieved by exercises; it should become
a way of looking at the world, at every being and every event of reality.
We shall develop this approach below.
8. this approach resembles a life of alternation (like the waves of
the sea, the heart and respiration, or like day and night and the
seasons), meaning that this state is constantly lost and must constantly
be reconstructed. This is why the Psalms describe a similar alternation
in King David. Read here our in depth study on Jewish respiration.
You will find below the introduction
to Shaare Kedusha by Ribbi Haim Vital. This is not a text which addresses
itself solely to those who possess occult, even prophetic, knowledge
it is addressed to the best in all of us:
And here is the translation: "I saw
bnei aliya (members of the ascent) and they are few, who thirst to
ascend, and the ladder disappears from their eyes, and they contemplate
the books of the ancients, to search and find the paths of life, the
path to follow and the action which must be done in order to ascend
their soul to its source on-high, and to make it adhere to the On-High
(blessed be He), for he is eternal completeness (shlemut) which is
the subject of prophets who, every day, adhere (devekut) to their
Creator and, through this adherence, the spirit of holiness (ruah
hakodesh) rules over them, to teach them the path in which light dwells,
to enlighten their eyes in the secrets of the Torah, as King David
said, may peace be on him: "open thou thine eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of thy Torah" (Psalm 119.18), and in order to
guide them in the right path and lead them to the city of dwelling
(ir moshav) prepared for them with the bnei aliya."
This passage and the entire book show
that what I am describing, in this study, is not a personal theory
on meditation but a transmission of the teachings of tradition.
The approach described above is pure
and simple and represents the constant dynamic of Jewish meditation.
There is no need to become a member of a sect which would have you
believe that a single individual founded a dynasty whose secret knowledge
will magically lead the world to its final maturation: this is like
Egypt and its magicians, which we came out of, or the myth which emerged
from Judaism to create Christianity in all its forms, all of which
claim that their prophet is a synthesis of Judaism and the sole harbinger
of revelation. This is an unending pathology that continues to perpetuate
itself. The Book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) warns us against such temptations
The teaching above is directed at all of us, to
be applied at every look, every sentiment, word, breath, act.
Who is Ribbi 'Hayim Vital?
1. Haim Vital wrote down the
teachings of his master, Ribbi Yitzhak Ashkenazi ben Shlomo
Luria, the Ari zal, (1534-1572), who was the greatest kabbalist
of the modern era. His yahrzeit falls on the 30th of Nissan,
the first day (rosh hodesh) of the month of Iyar. We are using
here his book Shaare Kedusha, which transmits the teaching
of the Ari, but in a very clear, pedagogic manner and it is
of great relevance to the subject of Jewish meditation.
The book clearly describes the place of meditation in relation
to the other obligations, practices and teachings of Judaism.
I shall describe the different points in stages, in this study,
in order to stress the fact that we are talking about an essential
element within the entire Jewish system, not just an isolated
2. His master, the Ari, did
however write in his own hand three poems which we sing on
The Ari was a student of R. Moshe Cordovero and master of
R. Haim Vital. He is buried in Tsfat (Safed). He is the author
of Etz Hayim and other kabbalistic works which were compiled
by his students, in addition to R. Hayim Vital. His yahrzeit
is on the 5th of Av.
Moshe benYaakov Cordovero (1522-1570) was the student of Rabbenu
Yosef Caro, known as "Maran" by the Sephardim (he
was the author of the Shulhan Arukh and a great kabbalist).
In addition to being the master of Ribbi Yitzhak Luria, the
Ari, he was also the master of Ribbi Shlomo Alkabetz, the
author of Lekha Dodi, the celebrated Shabbat song. His most
famous books are Pardes Rimonim (very specialized book of
kabbala), Or Neerav (an advocacy for kabbala) and Tomer Devora
(a book of ethics for the larger public, based on an understanding
of the Torah at its most intimate and most elevated levels
but transposed into clear, simple models of inner and external
behavior for everyone).
Ribbi Moshe Cordovero was also the master of Ribbi Eliahu
de Vidas, the author of Reshit Hokhma, which is quoted often
on this site: http://www.modia.org/priere/expliq4.html
The yarhzeit of Ribbi Moshe Cordovero falls on the 23rd of
Tammuz. You will find more than 20 links on him on the Modia
site (enter his name on the Google search box on the home
page). During the Omer period, in particular, we study his
book The Palm Tree of Devora.
This study is thus based the most solid, richest sources and
has nothing esoteric about it. May the merit of these authors
This study is thus based the most solid, richest sources and
has nothing esoteric about it. May the merit of these authors
Jewish meditation - Traditions
This study is based on centuries of
tradition in Jewish meditation based on the Torah, the prophets, and
the commentaries and teachings of the Sages who taught us, particularly
in their commentaries on the Psalms, from the time of King David himself,
that the Psalms transmit detailed, ancient, techniques of meditation,
spirituality, development of the whole person in all his dimensions,
and in the fulfillment of the Torah. I have not covered the numerous
authors who wrote on the subject, in the past 4,000 years, for they
require many levels of training, but they represent the source of
this study. One of the major, serious renovators of the meditation
tradition was Rav Arieh Kaplan, in his various works. I shall not
deal with the contribution of more recent authors and streams, as
I wish to focus on the original sources.
The practice of Jewish meditation varied
over the ages, and today we are neither in one of the richest nor
one of the poorest periods in this respect. Traditional Jewish meditation
was not and is not a physical technique, or mental technique of thought
control, or escape from reality, or an ethereal philosophy or affiliation
to an esoteric school.
Jewish meditation is a way of connecting and maintaining the connection
with the living foundation of the source of life. And, for us Jews,
it is a process that begins with ourselves and ultimately ends with
Jewish meditation, therefore, does not abandon ancient meditation
wisdom and practice. Instead, it brings to it the added contribution
of the revelation given to Abraham, that given to Moses at Sinai and
the precise manual handed down to us by King David.
It is based essentially on the experience
passed down to us by tradition and by competent masters who practiced
it. For it is not simply an intellectual process. The commentaries
on the Psalms by the great Sages will show us the way.
Points of similarity and difference between
Jewish tradition and other traditions
In our study and practice, we will see that there are
sometimes points of similarity with ancient techniques of development
and spirituality of other nations. But the similarity is never identical
for each civilization is unique.
Let us not forget where Abraham came from, where humanity comes from
!; from one sole Creator and one sole man, Adam:
The Talmud tells us:
- To borrow what is good in other nations, and not just borrow what
is bad, as we often do.
- To recognize that the Creator imparted different attributes to each
- That the members of the Sanhedrin held a constant dialogue with
other nations and were capable of doing this in 70 languages.
- That other nations also came to pay homage at the Temple, bringing
offerings and sacrifices and all the kings of the world wanted to
possess a dwelling in the Holy Land.
- That our Sages, from generation to generation, taught us the teachings
presented in this study.
Readers should, therefore, not be surprised
to see me use, now and then, certain precise, well-known terms from
world traditions. Jewish tradition has often done this, not in facile
or confuse manner, but in order to be more precise and in accordance
with the tradition taught to us by our Sages:" hasside umot haolam
yesh lahem helek ke olam habba, the righteous of the nations have
a share in the world to come." You can find these teachings in the
following sources: the Tosefta of Tractate Sanhedrin 13a, Rambam Maimonides
in Hilkhot Teshuva 3.8 and other books on the subject.
It is, however, not enough simply to
quote these terms. My use of these terms is based on a direct knowledge
of ancient sources, other than ours, and directly on texts and commentaries
in their original language, which I studied to a level high enough
to understand linguistic nuances. I began these in-depth studies fifty
years ago with eminent teachers and I referred to them in my doctoral
thesis, twenty years ago. Thus, in addition to my studies on Jewish
tradition, including ethno-psychological and ethno-psychoanalytical
approaches, I studied other sources in Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic and
other traditions. To a certain extent, this rigor is the same among
the great Sages of many traditions, even if the ignorant (among them,
as among us) sometimes fall into idolatry.
However it should be remembered that the name of the divine is not
the same, the entity is not the same and the connection is not the
Learning approach: from study to application (from "doing"
to "being"). Plan:
6. - Meditation dynamic
1: practice in the motion of the heart through imagination: the word
7. - Meditation dynamic
2: practice in the motion of the heart through the teachings of King
David and the prophets which enable us to attain the essential encounter
with God through Jewish meditation (see photos and commentary)
8. - Meditation dynamic 3: practice in the motion
of the heart through emotions: alternation in the Psalms of King David
9. - Meditation
dynamic 4: practice in the motion the heart through the teachings
of the book Perek Shira (link which expresses, illustrates and teaches
us through photos and commentary)
10. - Meditation
dynamic 5: practice in the motion of the heart through respiration
11. - Meditation
dynamic 6: practice in the poetic motion of the heart through words,
leading to Jewish meditation (demonstration through poems and thoughts).
We have illustrated this in this study but you should also refer to
other poems on the subject (link)
12. It is all about
the "atha- now" " presentation and commentary on the Yoga Sutra of
Patanjali, a work which contributes greatly to helping us understand
essential elements of Jewish meditation
13. If we can attain knowledge through
meditation, what is this form of knowledge? Meditation leads to "knowledge
which is un-knowledge," which is non-intellectual and represents a
special form of encounter. See translation of the introduction to
exercises on our relationship with the world (nature, objects, people,
actions) by developing our sensitivity to the beauty of Creation,
every part of which is imbued with the divine presence. (several pages
of photos on the subject).
6. - Meditation dynamic 1 - Practice
in the motion of the heart through imagination: the word "shiviti".
in the Psalms
- Psalm 16 Verse 6: "shiviti Hashem
le negdi tamid, I have set Hashem always before me". The emphasis
is on tamid (always) for this is something which is constantly reproduced
and which creates our connection with Hashem. It is a "one" which
becomes "two" as in a true connection. And as in the Hebrew letter
yud, which corresponds to the letter "i" but also stands for the digit
10 in Hebrew, and for the digit 20 when the gematria calculates the
value of all the letters in the word yud (=yud+vav+dalet). We could
also say that these three letters represent the three words and movements
which make up the process of respiration: inhalation, exhalation,
- Psalm 23 which represents total calm
and stability, even in the face of the enemy.
- Psalm 119 is one long mantra which
presents and repeats Psalm 16 verse 8, shiviti Hashem le negdi tamid,
and summarizes the entire Torah, in its most perfect essence, which
is the connection with God. It does this through a repetition of 8
verses for each of the 22 letters of the alphabet, which gives 176
verses or breaths. 8 (verses) is an even number and therefore double,
like the process of breathing. It is also a perfect number because
it is greater than the structure of the week, which consists of 7
days. The number 8 is also like the 8 days of the victory of Hanukka,
which was assured by this extra-ordinary connection with Hashem.
Here, the respiratory rhythm is completely balanced, during the entire
176 breaths or verses. In yoga, this completely balanced respiration
is called "pranayama."
The fact that the 176 verses describe the entire teaching of the Torah
shows that the person who recites these verses, has reached the level
of perfect, calm knowledge, which is called "vidya" in yoga. He then
attains a perception of the complete truth, which is the perception
of the spiritual truth or what is called "rta prajna."
- Psalm 150 is the complete outcome
of all the Psalms. We come now to a phenomenon that is of great concern
to us, for the last verse of this Psalm is also the last verse of
the corpus of Psalms and therefore represents the completeness of
the book of Psalms. It says: "kol ha neshama tehallel Ya halleluya,
let every soul praise Hashem" and the Sages say: "kol ha neshima,
every breath," not just "every neshama-soul." The connection I am
making, in this study, therefore comes from traditional source.
In other traditions, this apex is known
as "kaivalya," which is the ultimate state in yoga, representing freedom
attained. There is no room now for irregular respiration. This is
a state of joy, wellbeing, comfort and lightness known as "sukha"
King David, like the universe described in the verses of this Psalm,
now frees himself from painful alternations and lives by one sole
source, one sole joy and light. This form of focused orientation of
thought is known as "dharana" in yoga. Once again, I am not comparing
content but definition of stages.
The components of the universe evoked by King David, in this Psalm
(re-read it), are also a reflection of the different components of
his being and his body.
Energy " good, unique energy " then circulates like a gentle wind
through all the body: this is "vyana-vayu" in yoga.
There is no longer any internal blockage to the circulation of the
energy, a phenomenon known as "kundalini," or confusion or disharmony
in the movements of internal energy, either at the level of thought
or of feelings, emotions and physical senses " a disharmony which
is called "viksipta" in yoga, and which is encountered in the pain
experienced during a massage, psychotherapy, personal development
or physical trauma.
I come back to Psalm 119:
I have searched for the meaning of this balanced respiration, in the
even verses, which progress in a mantra of 176 movements, of this
Psalm which represents the attainment of a state of stability and
life found in the divine union. I cannot be absolutely certain about
the theory I am putting forward, but I believe it has some basis and,
in any case, it comes from the heart.
In Shaar Hakhavanot, Derush Kavanots
of the Kyriat Shema Yisrael, Daroush Vav, the Ari zal gives the meaning
of the gematria 176 when he commentates on "Baruch Shem Kevod Malkhuto
le Olam Vaed" (page 159). The number 176 is the gematria of the Hebrew
word "leolam" (forever) and the extension of the letters vav he of
the name of Hashem known as "shem ha meforash". The Ari comments that
it also represents the union of Leah and Rachel. Refer directly to
the source, as these concepts require a great deal of study.
The beauty of this union is described by the Ari zal in an allusion
to the magnificent verse in Proverbs, Chapter 22, verse 4: "ekev anava
yireat Hashem, osher ve kavod vehayim" ("by humility, the fear of
Hashem: riches, and honor and life"). I believe that the word ekev,
in this verse, indicates a logical process: "anava" represents the
attribute which ensures the union: the fact it is written "anava yireat
Hashem" instead of "anava ve yireat Hashem" indicates that there is
a union between all those who turn towards Him, Hashem, and the following
three words "osher vekavod vehayim" represent the happiness attained.
These three words consist, in Hebrew, of 13 letters which is the gematria
of "ahava" (love). It is from a pure heart that I came upon this finding
and may God forgive me if I am mistaken.
I was probably inspired by the teachings
of the Sages, for in keeping with the interpretation of the Ari zal,
we also find "ekev" in Psalm 119, verse 33 ("horeni Hashem derekh
hukeikha veetsarena ekev, teach me Hashem the way of thy statutes
and I shall follow them always") and in verse 112 ("natitit libi laasot
hukeikha leolam ekev, I have inclined my heart to perform thy statutes
always"). So here, too, we find the two words alluded to by the Ari
This technique of total concentration on one issue or object is called
"samyama" in yoga.
Let us examine this concept of "constant
stability in one's connection with God" as in Psalm 16 verse 8: "shiviti
Hashem le negdi tamid." This represents the perfect technique of Jewish
meditation, of Jewish yoga, when study with a master and with Hashem
attains the level of a triangular guru-guru relationship with Hashem.
word "shiviti" is made up of several,
Let us examine this special word "shiviti."
1. an imaginative techniquewhich places a mental concept before us
(in the sense of dima, taer, hitsig), as in Psalm 19.30 (derekh-emuna
baharti Hashem, mishpateikha shiviti, the way of the truth I have
chosen, thy judgments have I laid before me"). We recognize, here,
the visual meditative technique found in all spiritual movements based
on the age-old traditions that were known to Abraham and in Kabbala
which sees, in this verse, the constant presence of the 4 letters
of the divine name, as noted by the Ari in Etz Hayim, (Shaar Rouah
ha Kodesh page 4-5).
This constancy in visual representation is often cited, in Judaism,
- in Devarim 28.10 "And all the people of the earth shall see that
thou art called by the name of Hashem and they shall be afraid of
thee," which is commented on in Tractate Sotah, page 17A. Or when
it is written that the King of Israel must always have a Torah scroll
with him, which is stressed in Tractate Sanhedrin 21b. Similarly,
the "presence which connects" is illustrated in the "hoshen" (breastplate)
of the High Priest.
2. the concept of something good and
desired (raoui), as often found in the Book of Esther (3,8; 4,13;
7,4), a divine book which stresses the union between the Jewish people
and the Almighty.
3. the concept that reality is equal
and perfect, as in Isaiah (Yeshaya) 28.25.
4. the concept of a comparison which
renders one equal to the other, as in Isaiah 46.5: "le mi tedaminuni
ve tashvu" (to whom will ye liken me and make me equal).
5. everything said so far is summarized
in the perfect verse which explains the technique of Jewish meditation,
in Psalm 131.2-3: "im lo shiviti vedomamti nafshi!;" ("Surely I have
calmed and quieted myself!;.."). Here is the entire Psalm, which is
very short but resumes the axis of this study.
A Song of Degrees. By David
"Hashem, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty. Neither do
I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
Surely I have calmed and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned
of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.
Let Israel hope in Hashem from henceforth and for ever."
We already commented on the last word of the Psalm: "vead-olam" (for
ever), which symbolizes a complete, definitive union.
6. this is confirmed in the other meaning
of shiviti (gift), as in Psalm 21, 6, which describes the gifts given
to the king by God: "Gadol kevodo bishuatekha, hod vehadar teshave
alav" ("His glory is great in thy salvation: honor and majesty has
thou laid upon him").
We now understand
why the Psalms of David, called tehilim in Hebrew, are not only psalms
of "praise," but also impart a sense of "embellishment" and "illumination
to the point where a person full of this light is as though emptied
- embellishment: as in the following
verses of the Psalms in which this word appears (Psalms 32.3; 52,3;
63,12; 97,7; 106,5) and particularly Psalm 34.2, a verse which describes
the mystical union with Hashem: "ba Hashem tithallel nafshi, yshimeu
anavim veyismehu" ("my soul shall make her boast in Hashem; the humble
shall hear thereof and be glad"). Here, we find again the allusion
to anava (humility), which is the precondition
for total receptivity.
- illumination: as we find in Job 29, 2-3: "!;keyamei Eloka yishmeremi,
behilo nero alei roshi" ("!; as in the days when God preserved me,
when his candle shone his light upon my head.."). The presence which
we feel in this spiritual connection in very powerful. Indeed, Job
uses the same word in Job 31,26 for the light of the sun: "im eree-or"
("if I beheld the sun...") and when he refers to the unique creature,
the Leviathan, from whose "sneezing a light doth shine" ("atishotav
tahel or" Job 41.18). The prophet Isaiah also uses this word, referring
to the Psalms, when he speaks of "the light of the stars and the constellations"
("ki khokhevei hashamayim ukesileihem loyahellu oram").
- a person full of light is as though emptied of himself: as David
writes in Psalm 109,22: "ki ani veeviyon anokhi velibi hallal bekirbi"
( "for I am poor and needy and my heart is wounded within me").
Like the quality of humility (anav), this evokes the other identical
quality, "tam" (innocent); not the innocence of the naïve, foolish
person, but that of the person who willfully seeks to be upright,
righteous and live in the path of Hashem. And the person who is upright
will view the "tam" as someone who is perfect: "ve shemar tam uree
yashar ki aharit leish shalom" ("mark the perfect [innocent] man,
and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace," Psalm 37,37.
The entire Psalm is devoted tot his quality). Refer to it.
We can now close the circle of this
dynamic relationship with God through "shiviti" and the Psalms which
reflect the completeness of Jewish meditation, of Jewish yoga, by
connecting it to its source, which is the Torah, with the verse that
represents these themes in the word "tam" in Devarim 18,13: "tamim
tiye im Hashem Elokekha" ("thou shalt be pure and whole with Hashem
- Meditation dynamic no. 2
practice in the motion of the heart through the teachings of King
David and the prophets
which enable us to attain the essential connection with God through
Jewish meditation (see photos and commentary in the second page).
We are going to illustrate this process
of Jewish meditation, which is a motion of the heart in front of the
presence of God in nature, or as the Hebrew term, which we use here,
"maasei Elokim, the works of God". The Bible teaches us a lot about
this subject, for Judaism is not limited to commandments and prohibitions.
Here are some examples:
In Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 7.13
We are clearly instructed to "see/look": "Ree et maasei haElohim,
see the work of God".
And this is what the Sage does in Kohelet 8.17: "veraiti et kol maasei
haElohim, and I beheld all the work of God."
(all photos by the author)
And the prophet Isaiah 60.21 will apply this to the Creation of the
Jewish people, God's people: "[My people] maase yadai le itpaer, the
work of My hands, that I may be glorified." The Prophet Isaiah shows
that he has perfectly adopted this attitude of constant meditation,
when he says in Isaiah 64.7: "u maase yadekha kulanu, we are all the
work of Thy hands."
The prophet Isaiah goes even further and seems to
rail against those who imprison themselves in the study of books or
in superficial joys, and do not value the reality of the divine presence:
"In my ears said Hashem-Tsevaot!; woe unto them who do not regard
the work of God, neither consider the operation of His hands. Therefore
my people are gone into captivity because they have no knowledge and
their honorable men are famished and their multitude dried up with
thirst!;..and man shall be brought down and the mighty man shall be
humbled and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled." (Isaiah 5.9-17).
When man does not connect with the source of creation, total ruin
ensues because man has become disconnected from LIFE. This is neither
punishment or vengeance by God.
Now that we have understood this, we can study this
process in the Psalms.
Psalm 19 is an excellent model on how to discover
the approach that will connect us to God through meditation: everything
it teaches us on this begins with the observation of nature which
leads us to discover the divine intimacy which "enlightens the eyes,
meirat einayim" in verse 9. We can now read this beautiful Psalm,
for it will take us through this process.
To the chief musician. A Psalm of David.
1. The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament sheweth
2. Day unto day uttereth speech and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
3. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
4. Their line is gone out through all the earth and their words to
the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun.
5. Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber and rejoiceth
as a strong man to run a race.
6. His going forth is from the end of the heaven and his circuit unto
the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
7. The law of Hashem is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony
of Hashem is sure, making wise the simple.
8. The statutes of Hashem are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment
of Hashem is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9. The fear of Hashem is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of
Hashem are true and righteous altogether.
10. More to be desire are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold:
sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping with them
thee is great reward.
12. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults.
13. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins: let them not
have dominion over me: then shall I be upright and I shall be innocent
from the great transgression.
14. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable
in thy sight, Hashem, my strength and my redeemer.
Psalm 90 takes up this meditative process
on the works which direct us visually to the divine level, then to
an interaction of co-existence and our own insertion in this global
work which becomes ours.
Take note of all these points and precise concepts, all the stages
which are contained in the process of meditation.
Psalm 90.16-17: "Let thy work appear
unto thy servants and thy glory unto thy children.
And let the beauty of Hashem our God be upon us: and establish thou
the work of our hands upon us: yes, the work of our hands establish
And Psalm 86.8 further enlightens
us on the nature of this connection with the divine presence: it is
a different connection from that which the meditative traditions
of other philosophies, cultures and religions " in their wisdom uncontested
by the Psalm " call divine.
"Among the gods there is none like unto thee, Hashem; neither are
there any works like unto thy works."
here for the study on Psalm 86
Psalm 107 gives us an example of people who accomplish this
entire process, from the visible "works, "through meditation until
the desired end of their voyage," the divine term for the divine union.
Psalm 107, 24-31
"24. These see the works of Hashem and his wonders in the deep.
25. For he commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind which lifteth up
the waves thereof.
26. They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths:
their soul is melted because of trouble.
27. They reel to and fro and stagger like a drunken man and are at
their wit's end.
28. Then they cry unto Hashem in their trouble and he bringeth them
out of their distresses.
29. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
30. Then are they glad because they be quiet: so he bringeth them
unto their desired haven.
31. Oh that men would praise Hashem for his goodness, and for his
wonderful works to the children of men."
Then, Psalm 103.22 urges every being
to go even further and to vibrate in benediction:
22: "Bless Hashem, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless
Hashem, O my soul."
Psalm 104.13 and 24 makes us
discover the divine life which nurtures the worlds (a dynamic which
is called "the divine works"):
13. "He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied
with the fruit of thy works."
24. O Hashem, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom has thou made
them all: the earth is full of thy riches."
Psalm 111 imparts an additional teaching:
do not limit yourself to the intellectual study of religious books,
for you have a duty to look and connect with God through meditation:
2. " The works of Hashem are great, worthy of study for those that
have pleasure therein."
This is an allusion to the "so-called religious" who despise the sciences,
calling them profane, and who are in fact ignoring the teachings of
the Torah and do not possess the inner awareness of the divine presence
in His works. And they despise those who do. No wonder the prophets
Psalm 92 affirms this clearly and doesn't mince its words:
5. "O Hashem, how great are thy works! And thy thoughts are very deep!
6. A brutish man knoweth not: neither doth a fool understand this."
Psalm 106 shows the danger of ignoring this:
13. "They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel.
14. But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness and tempted God in the
15. And He gave them their request but sent leanness into their soul."
Kind David puts things right in Psalm 111
7. "The works of His hands are verity and judgment: all His commandments
8. They stand fast for ever and ever and are done in truth and righteousness."
Psalm 139 depicts a happy Sage who gives thanks
for being able to acknowledge the great works of God:
Psalm 139,4. "I will praise Thee: for I am fearfully and wonderfully
made: marvelous are thy works and that my soul knoweth right well."
Psalm 145 takes up all the themes of this process
of meditation on God's works and expresses the jubilation and praise
which burst out at the culmination
of this process and which are echoed in all aspects of existence.
" David's Psalm of Praise.
1. I will extol Thee, my God, O King; and I will bless Thy name for
ever and ever.
2. Every day will I bless Thee and I will praise thy name for ever
3. Great is Hashem and greatly to be praised: and his greatness is
4. One generation shall praise Thy works to another, and shall declare
Thy mighty acts.
5. I will speak of the glorious honor of Thy majesty and of Thy wondrous
6. And men shall speak of the might of Thy terrible acts: and I will
declare Thy greatness.
7. They shall abundantly utter the memory of Thy great goodness, and
shall sing of Thy righteousness.
8. Hashem is gracious and full of compassion: slow to anger and of
9. Hashem is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all His
10. All Thy works shall praise Thee O Hashem and Thy saints shall
11. They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom and talk of Thy power.
12. To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts and the glorious
majesty of His kingdom.
13. Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth
throughout all generations.
14. Hashem upholdeth all that fall and raiseth up all those that be
15. The eyes of all wait upon Thee: and Thou givest them their meat
in due season.
16. Thou openest Thine hand and satisfieth the desire of every living
17. Hashem is righteous in all his ways and holy in all his works.
18. Hashem is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call
upon Him in truth.
19. He will fulfill the desire of them that fear Him: He also will
hear their cry and will save them.
20. Hashem preserveth all them that love Him: but all the wicked will
21. My moth shall speak the praise of Hashem: and let all flesh bless
His holy name for ever and ever."
Then we see two conclusions very clearly:
1. In Proverbs (Mishle) 16.3, we see the reverse
process of what we achieved through meditation, concerning our own
"Commit thy works unto Hashem and thy thoughts shall be satisfied."
A change in our objective takes place when existence
becomes a "life" which integrates praise of God's works, as expressed
in Psalm 118.17:
"I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of Hashem."
Meditation dynamic no. 3
Practice in the motion of the heart through emotions: alternation
in the Psalms of King David
Let us try to understand this "poetic
motion of the heart through words" as applied to daily life, which
resembles the waves that alternate from the depths to the foamy surface.
I have, always, been struck by these
characteristics in the Psalms of King David:
- the alternation between verses expressing sadness, tragedy or feelings
of being abandoned and threatened, and verses expressing trust, calm
praise and the presence of God.
- the fact that the tragic verses are often more numerous than the
ones that describe calm, trust and presence.
- the fact that there is a continuous descent into tragedy, particularly
in the Psalms around Psalm 50, and this can be verified by counting
the process in reverse (from tragedy to joy).
- the fact that there are, nonetheless, verses and passages that express
stability, like Psalm 16 verse 8: shiviti Hashem le negdi tamid ("I
have set Hashem always before me").
Or Psalm 23, Psalm 119, and Psalm 150 which are full of constancy
I arrived at the following hypothesis
on the structure of the Psalms, in the course of the holistic, personal
developmental work I carry out in the presence of Hashem, and according
to the Torah.
This irregular alternation, in which one overwhelmingly chaotic state
is interspersed with a few transitory moments of calm, represents,
in fact, the process of respiration of every being and, in particular,
true physical respiration.
When respiration begins to become regular,
it leads to another level which gives one the inner impression of
unity. This may seem strange, since respiration is not a single phenomenon
but a double one (comprising inhalation-exhalation) and cannot consist
of just one movement of continued elevation, but comprises a simple,
There is, in fact, no problem, for,
like waves, and as in the meditation process that takes place in the
reading of the Psalms, we alternate between well-being and despair
and, through this alternation we are connected to the source of life.
dynamic no. 4
Practice in the motion of the heart through the teachings of Pérek
Chira, which attains the connection with God through Jewish meditation
(pedagogy: link which expresses, demonstrates and teaches us through
photos and commentary).
10. Meditation dynamic no. 5
Practice in the motion of the
heart through respiration
(link to this page)
Meditation dynamic no. 6
Practice in the
poetic motion of the heart through words which lead to a connection
with God through Jewish meditation (demonstrated through poems and
thoughts). We partially demonstrated this at the beginning of this
to the collection of poems expressing a similar theme (link to this
This study had a specific goal: to
show that the Psalms express highly precise, age-old techniques of
meditation, spirituality, and complete self-development in all its
And practice is based on the experience of tradition and competent
teachers. For this is not simply an intellectual study. The commentaries
of the Sages on the Psalms are the tools we require.
We see, too, that there are sometimes
points in common with the ancient techniques of self-development and
spirituality of other nations. But none is identical to the other,
for each civilization is unique. At the same time, we should not forget
where Abraham came from, and where all of mankind came from " from
one sole being.
The Talmud tells us:
- To take what is good in other nations and not, as we usually do,
which is to take what is bad.
- To recognize that the Creator imparted to man, made in His image,
qualities particular to each nation.
- That the members of the Sanhedrin were in constant communication
with other nations and did so in 70 languages.
- That the nations of the world also made pilgrimages to the Temple,
bringing offerings and sacrifices and all the kings of the earth wanted
a home in the land of God, blessed be He.
- And that, from generation to generation, the Sages taught all that
is written here.
Everything centers on the "now":
presentation and commentary on the Yoga
Sutra of Patanjali
who helps us to understand the
essential, existential, psychological and spiritual dimensions of
the preceding study on Jewish meditation.
This commentary is based directly on sources
in their original language. This form of study should be particularly
useful to psychologists who are working more and more with clients
who come from different cultures, or in origin or as a result of their
Patanjali is an Indian author whose
wrote the foundational text on the practice and theory of Yoga Sutra,
as well as the foundational book on the Sanskrit language. Mahabhasyam
("the great commentary") on the work Astadhyaya de Panini.
He is said to have lived in the second century before the common area.
Among the many teachings on yoga, his is considered to be the most
definitive. Patanjali saw metaphysics in grammar and language and
he even offered insights on the internal disputes of philosophies,
religions and political regimes.
Let us examine the beginning of his
Ata yogA nusshasannam
Literal translation: "(Ata) Now, (yogA)
yoga (anushasannamm) final instructions"
Common meaning: "now here are the final teachings on yoga."
MEANING OF "ATA" or in the exact phonetic
Ata imparts several meanings simultaneously:
- Now, in the meaning of opening, as in "and now."
- Now, after all that has been said. (here, the word Atha is not used
to introduce a "new subject". It is used to stress an immediate sequence,
what is going to be broached will depend on preceding conditions,
preceding requirements, preceding spiritual qualifications, and then
only what one broaches will be possible," comments Swami Krishnananda
of Sivanananda Ashram in Rishikesh, in the Himalayas of India.
The word and its commentary appear
in the first verse of Brahma Sutra. And commentaries, such as that
of Adi Sankara, note that the goal should not be attained through
"conscientious study" of commentaries but rather, that these commentaries
should put one "into contact with being" in silence.
- as from now,
- between what is between the past and the future,
- the continued, stable moment
- what is certain
- what is "the" goal, completion.
- what is the connection with Being.
It represents, thus, a moment which,
just as a note of music conveys a signal to a noisy crowd and creates
silence in the crowd in a concert hall, marks the beginning of something
essential that will constitute the sole value henceforth.
For me, personally, this resembles the technique I use in psychotherapy
or treatment (I use the Hebrew word tippul)" to help a patient get
into contact with the his own unique self. In every treatment, it
is important and necessary to help a patient to truly face himself.
This also means, as in the Psalms, to focus oneself on what is essential,
which is "shiviti Hashem le negdi tamid, I have set Hashem always
before me" or "gol al Hashem darkheha, commit thy way unto Hashem"
But in Sanskrit, the meaning of Atha
(which is the first word just as Berehist is the first word of the
Torah), has the sense of "arriving at complete perfection in relation
to all the preceding teachings" as well as "we are going towards something
that is blessed, authentic and of value, with the authority of truth
and good tidings".
For, in the works of the yoga masters (not popular works which view
yoga simply as a form of gymnastic), the connection with the body
or the connection in the form of meditation is always linked to every
level of being, not just personal ones but also the transcendental
levels which each person expresses in his own form of spirituality
or culture, on which yoga does not comment.
All of this helps us to understand
the importance of the word Ata and this is seen in the fact that it
is used to open other fundamental works such as the Brahma Sutra which
reveals the knowledge of Brahma (athatu Brahma jijnaasaa).
At the end of the second page of
this study (link), we shall discuss the parallel between the word
Atha (now) and the Hebrew word Ata (now), for both words direct the
heart towards the same target and both cultures impart to us the same
THE MEANING OF THE SECOND WORD: YOGA
Yoga represents the optimal state in existence, characterized by the
ability to be focused on one point, like a control tower or the zero
of a thermometer.
Otherwise the mind " or the whole being " will remain focused simultaneously
on a number of different, contradictory and impossibly-reconcilable
mental operations, which Patanjali defines later as delirium (kshipta),
oblivion (mudha), unstable, oscillating search (viksipta), focusing
on one point (ekaagra) and restriction or restraint (niruddha). One
must learn how to manage all of this. The essential thing, therefore,
is not the level which we call the mind or the intellect, as in Western
thought, but correct management. The value of a being exists only
through the value in the way it is managed.
Of course, the work tells us that we must be acquainted with all the
mechanics of mental functioning, whose principle states are illumination
(samhadi), energetic activity (rajas) and energetic inertia (tamas),
but the essential thing is the ability to manage, which is achieved
through one sole process " "centering on one point," which will be
It should be stressed that this does
not involve solely the level of so-called intellectual, cognitive
processes but also involves the physical inner make-up of bones, the
flesh of all forms of internal physical components, the soul, the
intellect, the spirit, the will, conscience, imagination, and being.
MEANING OF THE THIRD WORD: ANUSHASANNAMM
This word is generally translated as
"a guide for, introduction, rules." The word is made up of the following:
"Anu" meaning "towards" ; "Shas" meaning "orientation, necessary,
natural, absolute organization" and is often used in Sanskrit as meaning
"control, govern, teach, train and, even, punish"; "Nam" also has
the meaning of "submission and justice." This is how Sanskrit thought
functions, in a cumulative and continually holistic manner, like the
mind which constantly adds new colors to create one color. There is
nothing confusing here, because all the elements are precise, like
the elements of one color.
Readers can verify this in any serious
Sanskrit dictionary, such as the "Sanskrit English Dictionary" by
Sir Monier Monier-Williams (Oxford), which is the indisputable reference
work on the subject.
The French translation by Bernard Bouancaud (Yoga-Sutra de Patanjali.
Miroir de soi, Editions Agamat. Palaiseau. France) perfectly conveys
the dynamic dimension present in the word "atha" and situates it,
not only in the context of the student's own personal but also in
the context of the relationship with the student: "The first aphorism
presents an essential condition for the transmission of yoga: a reciprocal
promise of mutual trust is made between the one who teaches and the
one who receives. The term "atha" signifies that the transmission
is beginning under favorable auspices, the teacher and the student
having accomplished the first step. The teacher considers that the
disciple is ready. The teaching of yoga is based on a lived experience
and a continuity of the oral tradition".
A synthesis of these parameters is
given in the masterly work by Bellur Krishnamashar Sunderaraja Iyengar,
known as B.K.S. Iyengar, who is famous for having made Iyengar yoga
known in the US, both in practice and in theory, and for having published
many important works.
Through him, we shall discover now the enormous dimensions of the
word "atha." Here Here is his definition:
"Atha: now auspiciousness, a prayer, a blessing, benediction, authority,
a good omen!;
With prayers for divine blessings, now begins an exposition of the
sacred art of yoga."
Following the definition of the literal meaning, the pshat, as we
say in Hebrew, I shall now give my own explanatory commentary, based
on the foundational works of this tradition, and not on my own thoughts.
We immediately see, in these foundational works, how narrow-minded
are the concepts which view yoga simply as a form of gymnastic or
meditation technique, and this verse as a mere introduction to an
exposé on yoga.
So, together with the Sages, let us try to understand the full meaning
of all the components of these three words (Ata
- firstly, an acknowledgment that this introduces a state where everything
will be good,
- a state of praying, which means contact, receptivity, affection,
- blessed flux,
- the power of this flux on the being where we are,
- from this, the happy tiding regarding everything that will be lived,
- achievement of a state of being "crystal clear, far from the confusion
of the modern mind" says Iyengar.
- progression and continual progression.
- this supposes preliminary studies.
On the last point, Patanjali is alluding
to two other works which constitute a preliminary basis and which
will enable us to better achieve the holistic nature of Yoga:
- his treatise on grammar, entitled Mahabhasya ("great commentary'
) on the work Astadhyayi of Pacini. This is more than a grammar book
for it offers an understanding of the different forms of being through
words and speech in every dimension.
- His treatise on ayurveda, natural-based medicine.
We now understand why the Swami Venkatesananda
translates and summarizes this verse thus: "Now, when a sincere seeker
approaches an enlightened teacher, with the right attitude of discipleship
(viz., free of preconceived notions and prejudices, and full of intelligent
faith and receptivity) and with the right spirit of inquiry, at the
right time and the right place, communication of yoga takes place."
It is important to stress that these
three rich Sanskrit words (Ata yogA nusshasannam)
should not just be "read" as printed letters but should be pronounced
and heard, for in every Sanskrit word there are guttural, palatal,
cerebral dental or labial, aspirated, nasal, letters, etc. which represent
vehicles of meaning.
You can listen to the verse on these
et ici un lien avec la prononciation de ces différents versets:
Le second verset
YOGAA TCHITTA VRITTI NIRODHAAH
You can hear it here:
Literal translation: "Yoga (yogaa)
consciousness (tshitta) whirlwind (vritti) cessation (nirodhaah)"
meaning in English: "yoga is the cessation of the whirlwind of consciousness."
Here is my commentary:
This means that one must mobilize inert energy (tamas), then the active
energy of knowledge (rajas) can operate and one enters into meditation,
free of consciousness (citta vimuktih) which is a quality, virtue
Consciousness, tshit or tshitta, is
enabled by three factors:
- the ego (ahammkaara) which is the opposite of "that" (purusa)
- the intellect which is connected to the essence (buddhi) achieved
by knowledge and experience in action)
- and the mind (manas) which collects information via the five senses
(jnaanendriyas); this is manifested in three functions: knowledge,
desire and movement. The mind operates through attention, observation,
reasoning, goals, strategies and tactics.
All this imparts to the conscious mind
an impression of revelation (viveka-khyaati), which is also movement
and activity. But this too will be overtaken in order to arrive at
what is essential: a stop, restriction, cessation, control, obstruction
We can then speak of "Yoga," for this level of new knowledge is super-knowledge
or special knowledge where nothing is known. At this point, the ego
(ahammkaara) attains the level of the true self connected to the universal
self (antaraatma) and, at this level, consciousness takes on a new
form (antahkaragna) that unites the two.
This involves ceasing habitual movement,
through this form of concentration (dhaaragna), which is the essential
mode of silence in meditation (dyaana). At this moment, yoga seems
like a tactic but it is also the final goal which is called, in 2.29
of the work: the "glory of knowledge or the essence of knowledge"
I have presented the introduction to
the essence of Yoga in the first two verses of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra
with the same rigor and seriousness I apply to the study of Torah,
using my knowledge of the language of the original foundational texts
on the subject. I had begun my studies in this field at university
at the same time as I was training in psychology, in 1955. But it
is only in 2009 that I felt I had studied and understood sufficiently
in order to write this commentary.
Why is this of interest?
"Take from the nations what is good and do not continue to take from
them what is bad" says the Talmud.
Judaism even went so far as to adopt
Aramaic script, abandoning Hebrew script, in order to attain a connection
of plenitude with all Creation, for each nation has a specific role
and relationship. The Talmud and the midrashim are replete with encounters
and dialogues with surrounding cultures. And the Sages of the Sanhedrin
carried out their duties, with perfect knowledge of the 70 surrounding
cultures. Since the Jewish people only recently returned to their
"Jewish geography" in the Middle East, we have not yet sufficiently
resumed this relationship, which is described in our ancient texts
as rich and as a common divine vocation. I shall just give one example
on the basis of this study: readers, who know spoken Hebrew well and
our holy books, have been amazed to discover these two facts:
- that the word "ata" has the same meaning of "now" in Sanskrit and
- that we can revive our knowledge of our own holy books by studying
the foundational works of other civilizations.
The fact that "ata" in Sanskrit has
the double meaning of "now" and of a divine relationship makes us
realize that it is not a pure coincidence if the Hebrew word "ata"
also has a double meaning, but with a difference in spelling (ata
spelt with an initial alef meaning "you" and ata spelt with an initial
ayin, meaning "now.").
This goes even further in Hebrew and
in Judaism for ata, you, is not just a second person, personal pronoun,
it also refers specifically to God and He is called by this word in
every blessing, and every time we connect with the almighty Thou.
This association renews, in a divine way, every human relationship
in which we use this term towards the other.
To be aware of this means to be in an immediate relationship of meditation,
connecting with one's deep being, that of the other, and up to the
Those who wish to study these elevated
levels should refer to the writings of the Ari, zal, on "Ata" as an
allusion to "Abba" (see, for example, Etz Hachyim, chapter 34, rule
22); or his commentary in Shaare Hakavanot 75.2, on "ata ehad" from
the Shabbat minha service; or his commentary on "ata" kidashta in
the same book, 71.1.
In the Tanakh, the Bible, the word
"ata" (now) written with an ayin, appears no fewer than 433 times.
But there is more to this, and it is connected with Patanjali's work
(in a reciprocal way), for the word does not only mean "now, at this
moment." It also means "now, henceforth" in 271 cases when it is affixed
to the particle "ve" (and).
We see this clearly in the Psalms...
- when it serves to point to something essential that mankind should
know: "Now, therefore, be wise, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges
of the earth" (Psalm 2.10).
- when it points to a radical, global change in the order of things:
"And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about
me: therefore will I offer in His tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I
will sing, yea. I will sing praises unto Hashem" (Psalm 27.6).
- "And now, Hashem, what wait I for? My hope is in Thee"(Psalm 39.7)
In his celebrated commentary on the Psalms, the Hida writes that this
signifies "teshuva" (return), when one passes from error to return,
from dina (justice) to Adonut, whose name comprises the same letters,
and who is goodness and mercy (rahamim). Those who have studied this
will understand. We find here the connection with the divine Name
"Ata Adonut, Thou Hashem" as it appears the first time in the Psalms
4.9. Then there is, simultaneously, the complete name of the divine
Being and man appears capable of acknowledging it:
- "Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I have kept Thy
word" (Psalm 119.67).
These last two verses stress the transition from negative confusion
to goodness, and especially to Hashem in a relationship with Thee,
as it is also said in the culmination of Yoga. The
only difference, and it is important, is that the name of THE source
13. If we can attain knowledge through meditation,
what is this form of knowledge?
Meditation leads to a "knowledge that
is un-knowledge," which is non- intellectual and represents a special
form of connection. We are at the level, which Ribbi Hayim Vital talked
about. We could call it, "being in Your courts" as
writes King David in Psalm 84, which we cite here in its entirety:
"To the chief musician upon gittith.
A Psalm for the sons of Korah.
1. How amiable are thy tabernacles, Hashem Tzevaot!
2. My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of Hashem: my
heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God!
3. Yes, the sparrow hath found a house and the swallow a nest for
herself, where she may lay her young, [I dreamt of] thine altars,
Hashem Tzevaot, my King, my God.
4. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising
5. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are
the ways of thee!
6. Who passing through the valley of tears make it a well; the rain
also filleth the pools.
7. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth
8. Hashem, God Hashem, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah!
9. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.
10. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand [others]. I
had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in
the tents of wickedness.
11. For Hashem God is a sun and a shield: Hashem will give grace and
glory: no good thing will be withheld from them that walk uprightly.
12. Hashem Tzevaot, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee."
When the Psalm talks of a place (makom) it means with and within He
who is the place of all places (makom).
1. The above does not represent intellectual
gratitude but gratitude of the heart, as understood according to tradition.
to the study page on the heart (lev). We leave the un-essential
and attain, with immediacy, the target which is the one Being. It
is a relationship which must be constantly renewed.
2. To this goal, one must beware of routine for it can divert us in
the wrong direction. Instead one should continually examine ourselves,
reaching the level of purification advocated by Patanjali and echoing
the words of Job: "who am I, I do not know Thee" which place him immediately
in a true relationship.
3. Many Jewish hymns which are sung collectively, such as Adon Olam,
evoke this teaching, with the repetition of bli (without) which stresses
this theme. It is a collective teaching on the meditative approach.
Jewish meditation and Shahnama by Ferdowsi:
Following the method of study you are
familiar with, on this site, I shall now quote a document of capital
importance, because it is an example of the contribution of the nations
of the world, at its best.
I shall give you the translation of the introduction in Persian to
the Shahnama by Ferdowsi (link to the presentation in english
here). This work is known to every Iranian who has read the ancient
works of his tradition, for Iranians are able to read their ancient
literature, just as Jews read the ancient texts of their tradition,
since these are written in the same language as spoken Hebrew of today.
This is a living tradition which does not exist in any Western country.
After the glorious era of Persia (like
that of the land of Israel before the destruction of the Temple),
Persian culture was violated and the Arab conquest imposed on Persia
the Arab language, Arabic script, and a foreign religion with the
result that, to this day, Persia/Iran is in a state of constant revolt
against its Sunni occupiers (which explains the military problems
in the region and the repercussions on the rest of the world). Ferdowsi
accomplished, what Ben Yehuda did for Hebrew, in his book Shahnama
(the Book of Kings) which assembles together all the preceding traditions
of Persian identity, in the Persian language, expurgated of Arabic.
The book was written in the 10th century, several centuries after
the Arab invasion and occupation which took over the entire region.
Since then, his work is like a Bible for all Iranians, even Muslim
Iranians. The Arabs never succeeded in imposing an Islamic calendar
on Persia and the Iranians still celebrate Noruz, the new year holiday
of their ancient tradition.
It is in this context that the famous encounter
between the King of Persia and Esther took place and it was in order
to discover more about this wondrous encounter that I began to study
the Persian language
We should, therefore, not be surprised
that this source has given us a remarkable work on the approach to
follow in order to attain a true connection
I invite readers to read first the
last page of the Tanakh (Bible), and only after, then, Ferdowsi's
introduction to his voluminous work. It echoes our paragraph on knowledge
through un-knowledge which is the basis of Jewish meditation.
Below you will find the original text of the introduction, first in
Persian, then in English:
(The first part begins with the teaching for the person who wishes
to go towards God; he will understand the process of un-knowledge,
as God demanded of Job)
"In the name of merciful God, who gave
us the soul and the intellect. Our thoughts are very limited and do
not reach unto Him. He has an elevated Name and an elevated place.
He gives us our bread and he shows us the way. He is the name of all
that exists. He gives the light to the moon and to the stars and to
the sun. Say whatever you want to say but he is more than names, places,
signs and all that. He writes all destinies and His star shines above
all the other stars. Do not make the effort for you cannot see Him
with your two eyes. Do not make the effort and do not tire your eyes
for they cannot see Him. Even by thought it is impossible to reach
unto him. My thought reaches a certain level at which I can think
and say what I have to say and I can only say what I see and no more.
For He is in a place far more elevated than my thought, than your
thought and one will not reach Him, God, whose Name is above every
name, He who is the place of all places, He who gives me my bread
and gives us our bread and shows us the way.
God who by His hand makes all beings exist, He accompanies everything
that moves but it is impossible to see Him and even if I continue
to think and to speak, I cannot reach him, nor by my body nor by my
No human being, to this day, is able to serve Him as one should.
(After this clearly defined first part,
the second part begins by presenting the possibility of connecting
One must, therefore, begin to gird
one's loins and become His servant. He examines you, you, your intelligence,
your soul, your body and he who has a closed, obstinate mind will
not be able to reach him!;
You must seek him, this Being and stop talking rubbish. You must serve
him and try to find the way to see him profoundly in order to reach
what he says and his commandments.
He who has intelligence and strength, the adult, grown man, if he
studies, like the cells of the brain, he will renew himself.
But no more than that, for he will not be able to draw the curtains
or discover the secrets for he will not reach This Being. And with
all the generations of gilgulim (reincarnations) which he underwent
and with all the things he has said till now, he can say only one
thing: I am not able."
The connection with God, at this moment
of truth, is REAL and as complete as it is possible.
Now we can reread the last two chapters
of the Book of Job, which we will understand as conveying: the permanent
present. Present, in every sense of the term. And let us read the
Psalms, from Psalm 119 to Psalm 150 "like a respiration present in
every place and at every level of our being."
Nothing more needs to be said: just
put into practice!
pages for further study on this commentary:
read the page on practical training in Jewish meditation: through
this link on the long gallery of photos which aim to develop the
way we observe His present Creation, and practice receiving his
present (in the double sense of "present" and "gift").
- PEREK SHIRA, the sublime praise emitted by all of nature (LINK).
A long exchange with a Jew who practiced eastern meditation in India
and has returned to Israel (link).
Psalm 16 (link) and devekut " adhesion to God.
Other links on devekut (link)
I also present to you
one of my meditative poems
on the connection to the source:
"My love for you
is as beautiful as the flight of birds,
as the song of blackbirds and the dancing of waves,
as the green landscapes,
the water-colored clouds,
the purity of dew-drops,
the laughter of babies,
the majesty of mountains,
the immensity of oceans,
the amazingly infinite galaxies,
the caresses of cascades and rivers,
the power of leaping tigers,
the variety of the seasons,
and of men and women of every race,
the music and dances,
and intoxicating perfumes."
Said the Creator to Israel,
said the Creator to every being
made in very His image.
You are of this source,
Cease all wars,
all that is ugly.
There is only one being,
in every being.
It is so good, so clear.
It is a fatal mirage,
the money which you seek.
This is the Jewish challenge of every being."
Jewish meditation according to the traditional sources.
Return to the previous study to further clarify these concepts and
your personal dynamics:
- act of respiration which is connected to
the essence of the soul
- anava (humility) as the supreme, unique attribute
- applied at every look, every sentiment, word, breath, act
- avoiding the trap of intellectually perceiving the divine
- cannot be taught to two people simultaneously
- concentration on one issue or object
- connect to the one "source" creator of life, with which we are
- constant dynamic of Jewish meditation
- constantly in contact
- Creator who is good and is life itself
- direct connection as "a presence and a relationship with a presence
- directly to the target which is inscribed in everything: He who
is the essential Being
- discovering a true relationship instead
- duty to look and connect with God through meditation
- from the very first words of the Torah
- holistic approach encompassing the whole person
- holistic concept of a person, a being and inter-relationships
- inner motion that connects us
- inner motion within a trajectory which connects the subject to
the very source of life
- jewish anthropology
- jewish ethno-psychology
- jewish hearing
- jewish meditation and 176
- jewish meditation and ability to manage
- jewish meditation and Abraham
- jewish meditation and Adon Olam with the
repetition of "bli" (without)
- jewish meditation and ancient techniques
of development and spirituality of other nations
- jewish meditation and ata
- jewish meditation and being in Your courts
- jewish meditation and beginning of something
- jewish meditation and breathing
- jewish meditation and calm and stability,
even in the face of the enemy
- jewish meditation and cessation of the
whirlwind of consciousness
- jewish meditation and circulation of the
- jewish meditation and Cohen gadol
- jewish meditation and connecting to its
- jewish meditation and culmination of the
process in all aspects of existence
- jewish meditation and danger of ignoring
- jewish meditation and David
- jewish meditation and desire
- jewish meditation and dina to Adonut
- jewish meditation and discover the divine life which nurtures
- jewish meditation and dynamic relationship with God
- jewish meditation and emptied of himself
- jewish meditation and emotions
- jewish meditation and Ferdowsi
- jewish meditation and freedom
- jewish meditation and He who is the place of all places
- jewish meditation and here and now
- jewish meditation and imaginative and visual technique and sources
- jewish meditation and intellectual process
- jewish meditation and interaction of co-existence
- jewish meditation and Job
- jewish meditation and jubilation and praise
- jewish meditation and knowledge that is un-knowledge
- jewish meditation and leolam
- jewish meditation and meditative personal poems on the connection
to the source
- jewish meditation and nature
- jewish meditation and neshama-neshima
- jewish meditation and pedagogie
- jewish meditation and Patanjali
- jewish meditation and Perek Shira
- jewish meditation and poetry
- jewish meditation and possibility of connecting with God
- jewish meditation and praise-embellishment-illumination
- jewish meditation and psalm 119
- jewish meditation and psychotherapy
- jewish meditation and reality equal and perfect
- jewish meditation and receiving all of
reality since the Creation and Creator
- jewish meditation and regular respiration
- jewish meditation and repetition
- jewish meditation and sadness, tragedy, despair or feelings of
being abandoned and threatened
- jewish meditation and Sanhedrin
- jewish meditation and sensitivity to the beauty of Creation
- jewish meditation and shiviti
- jewish meditation and silence
- jewish meditation and stability and happiness
- jewish meditation and stability and life found in the divine union
- jewish meditation and state constantly
lost and just constantly be reconstructed
- jewish meditation and state of
confusion in all areas (thoughts, feelings and actions)
- jewish meditation and state of "connection-contact-adhesion" which
is called "devekut"
- jewish meditation and visible "works" and divine term
- jewish meditation and teshuva (return)
- jewish meditation and thanks for being able to acknowledge the
great works of God
- jewish meditation and to die or to live
- jewish meditation and to help a patient to truly face himself
- jewish meditation and to place himself immediately in a true relationship
- jewish meditation and to read psalms like a respiration present
in every place and at every level of our being
- jewish meditation and to "see/look"
- jewish meditation and to vibrate in benediction
- jewish meditation and triangular relationship
- jewish meditation and true connection
- jewish meditation and waves of
the sea, heart, respiration, day and night, seasons
- jewish meditation and works of God
- jewish meditation and yoga
- jewish meditation and youd
- jewish meditation based on the Torah
- jewish meditation: basic definition
- jewish meditation from study to application (from "doing" to "being")
- jewish meditation in the fulfillment of the Torah
- jewish meditation is not...
- jewish meditation requires training,
- jewish personal development
- jewish psychology
- jewish respiration
- life becomes a consciousness of the total
relationship that exists within the "immediacy" of a moment, in
its specific, limited form
- living Temple
- meditation and kavana (intent or purpose)
- neshama (soul) to express neshima (breath)
- not a personal theory on meditation but...
- process that begins with ourselves and ultimately ends with the
- receives the "only perfection" which is that of the Creator and
which He wished to give us
- traditions of jewish meditation
- way of connecting and maintaining the connection with the living
foundation of the source of life
- way of looking at the world, at every being and every event of
Now, read my second page on practical training in Jewish meditation:
through this link on the long gallery of photos which aim to develop
the way we observe His present Creation, and practice receiving
his present (in the double sense of "present" and "gift").
A final image to conclude this study.
It is of a photo of a proto-star on the wonderful astronomy site:
(a link well worth referring to).